Bruce, F.F. The Book of Acts Revised. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988. Kindle Electronic Edition. “II. Persecution and Expansion (6:1-9:31).” “B. Philip (8:1B-40)” pp. 162-179.
Commenting on Acts 8:1b, Bruce notes that the loud lamentation made for Stephen was prohibited by law. However, he was given a tribute regardless (Bruce 1988, 162). Bruce considers the departure from Jerusalem to be mostly of the Hellenistic Christians. “From this time onward the Jerusalem church appears to have been a predominantly ‘Hebrew’ body” (Bruce 1988, 162) Saul of Tarsus was at the forefront of the persecution (v.3). Bruce sees this dispersion as a New Testament version of the Old Testament dispersion of Jews among Gentiles. Here, those scattered continue to do good for the people they contact (Bruce 1988, 163).
The focus of the narrative follows Philip. Philip went to Samaria, which had long been treated by the Hebrews as an enemy (Bruce 1988, 164). Philip was casting out demons and healing people (vv. 6-8).
Simon Magus, introduced in Acts 8:9, became notorious in early Christian literature. He may have emerged later as a leader of a Gnostic sect (Bruce 1988, 166). Simon converted to Christianity, at least for a time, and was baptized (Bruce 1988, 167). Peter and John later came from Jerusalem. When the Holy Spirit was imparted through Peter and John laying hands on the Samaritans, Simon was interested. Bruce mentions several possible interpretations of Peter’s and John’s action but considers it inconclusive (Bruce 1988, 168). Simon Magus, wanting the power to impart the Holy Spirit, offered to buy it from the apostles. He was rebuked sternly by Peter and John (Bruce 1988, 171). It seems to Bruce that Simon’s Christianity, what there was of it, was crushed out by the rebuke. However, Justin Martyr does admit to Simon’s identity as a Christian (Bruce 1988, 172).
Acts 8:26-40 continues with the story of Philip. He received instructions from the Holy Spirit to go south on a particular road (Bruce 1988, 173). Bruce compares these events t the narratives about Elijah, who seemed to receive directives in much the same way. Bruce describes in brief the exalted reputation of the Ethiopian king at this time. He notes that the queen would actually conduct the rule. Her assistant was therefore very important (Bruce 1988, 174). He did wish for an interpreter of the passage he was reading. Philip joined him and explained that the passage was about Jesus (Bruce 1988, 175). The Ethiopian having believe asked to be baptized. Philip’s question of his faith, Bruce says, was added by later editors wishing to defend Philip. Regardless, the man was baptized and Philip was taken away supernaturally (Bruce 1988, 177). He continued to preach as he returned home. Bruce assumes the Ethiopian also told others.